Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Don’t Find) Work Today

University of Chicago Press
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Finding a job used to be simple. You’d show up at an office and ask for an application. A friend would mention a job in their department. Or you’d see an ad in a newspaper and send in your cover letter. Maybe you’d call the company a week later to check in, but the basic approach was easy. And once you got a job, you would stay—often for decades.

Now . . . well, it’s complicated. If you want to have a shot at a good job, you need to have a robust profile on LinkdIn. And an enticing personal brand. Or something like that—contemporary how-to books tend to offer contradictory advice. But they agree on one thing: in today’s economy, you can’t just be an employee looking to get hired—you have to market yourself as a business, one that can help another business achieve its goals.

That’s a radical transformation in how we think about work and employment, says Ilana Gershon. And with Down and Out in the New Economy, she digs deep into that change and what it means, not just for job seekers, but for businesses and our very culture. In telling her story, Gershon covers all parts of the employment spectrum: she interviews hiring managers about how they assess candidates; attends personal branding seminars; talks with managers at companies around the United States to suss out regional differences—like how Silicon Valley firms look askance at the lengthier employment tenures of applicants from the Midwest. And she finds that not everything has changed: though the technological trappings may be glitzier, in a lot of cases, who you know remains more important than what you know.

Throughout, Gershon keeps her eye on bigger questions, interested not in what lessons job-seekers can take—though there are plenty of those here—but on what it means to consider yourself a business. What does that blurring of personal and vocational lives do to our sense of our selves, the economy, our communities? Though it’s often dressed up in the language of liberation, is this approach actually disempowering workers at the expense of corporations?

Rich in the voices of people deeply involved with all parts of the employment process, Down and Out in the New Economy offers a snapshot of the quest for work today—and a pointed analysis of its larger meaning.

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About the author

Ilana Gershon is associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University and the author of TheBreakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 12, 2017
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780226452289
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Careers / Job Hunting
Business & Economics / General
Business & Economics / Human Resources & Personnel Management
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Sociology / General
Technology & Engineering / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Ever wondered what it would be like to be a street magician in Paris? A fish farmer in Norway? A costume designer in Bollywood? This playful and accessible look at different types of work around the world delivers a wealth of information and advice about a wide array of jobs and professions. The value of this book is twofold: For young people or middle-aged people who are undecided about their career paths and feel constrained in their choices, A World of Work offers an expansive vision. For ethnographers, this book offers an excellent example of using the practical details of everyday life to shed light on larger structural issues.Each chapter in this collection of ethnographic fiction could be considered a job manual. Yet not any typical job manual—to do justice to the ways details about jobs are conveyed in culturally specific ways, the authors adopt a range of voices and perspectives. One chapter is written as though it was a letter from an older sister counseling her brother on how to be a doctor in Malawi. Another is framed as a eulogy for a well-loved village magistrate in Papua New Guinea who may have been killed by sorcery.Beneath the novelty of the examples are some serious messages that Ilana Gershon highlights in her introduction. These ethnographies reveal the connection between work and culture, the impact of societal values on the conditions of employment. Readers will be surprised at how much they can learn about an entire culture by being given the chance to understand just one occupation.Contributors: Lovleen Bains, Mumbai; Chiwoza Bandawe, University of Malawi; Joshua A. Bell, Smithsonian Institution; Michelle Bigenho, Colgate University; Warren Chamberlain, Vita Needle Company, Massachusetts; Melissa Demian, Australian National University; Ilana Gershon, Indiana University; Kathryn Graber, Indiana University; Graham M. Jones, MIT; Amanda Kemble, University of Michigan; Briel Kobak, University of Chicago; Corinna Kruse, Linköping University, Sweden; Joel Kuipers, The George Washington University; Carrie Lane, California State University, Fullerton; Jean Lave, University of California, Berkeley; John Law, Open University; Heather Levi, Temple University; Marianne Elisabeth Lien, University of Oslo; Caitrin Lynch, Olin College; Loïc Marquet, Paris; Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Indiana University; Chris Swift, Leeds Teaching Hospitals; Claire Wendland, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Clare Wilkinson-Weber, Washington State University Vancouver; Helena Wulff, Stockholm University
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